To commemorate August’s Bullying Prevention Month, we wanted to offer a professional perspective on the realities of bullying both in and outside of the workplace.
Occupational psychologist, trainer, and author of four best-selling books including Human Resource Development, Health and Social Care for Inductees, Myths of Choice: Why People Won’t Change and What You Can Do About It, and her most recent and compelling Vystopia, Clare Mann has studied and taught the subject of human behavior for over two decades.
Clare’s extensive experience in the areas of work/life integration makes her the perfect candidate to speak on the subject of vegans in today’s non-vegan world.
We all know our upbringing significantly impacts who we become as adults. Can you shed some light on your childhood and the family dynamics you grew up with?
I was born in the south of England, UK, and have an older brother and sister. I always felt I was wanted and that my parents devoted themselves to us. They were very philosophical and always asked “Why are we here? What is life all about?” My parents didn’t have a lot of money, but we never felt we went without. They gave me the most important thing parents can give – their time. Sadly, both my parents are dead but instilled in me the importance of helping others, living with integrity, and leaving the world in a better place than when I joined it.
How did any of these people help shape who you are today?
My parents taught me the importance of living with integrity and speaking out for what is right even if it makes you unpopular or you lose friends. They taught me to try and understand other people’s plight and to try and find out why people react or act in ways that seem hurtful or senseless. My father taught me to communicate with animals and his gentleness with stray dogs or injured wildlife stayed with me and showed me that we can make real change by acting right now in our own backyards and communities.
At what age did you become vegan?
I became vegetarian when I was 17 after reading about the plight of a cow on his way to slaughter. It took me nearly 30 years to become vegan simply because I got on with my life and social media didn’t exist. I became vegan 16 years ago when I was 46.
How was veganism introduced to you?
Whilst living in a rural area for 4 years in New Zealand I came across the cruel pig dog hunting industry. I was horrified at what I discovered and tried to save baby pigs left overnight in the freezing NZ winter after their mothers had been brutally killed by hungry hunting dogs, who themselves had been starved before being let loose on them. I also intervened to release the hunting dogs who were cruelly thrown back into cages, some having been scored by pigs. I had all the dogs taken away, only to be returned once their prisons were cleaned up.
On my return to Australia a year later, I began to look further and was sent videos from Animals Australia on the intensive factory farming of pigs. After watching this and numerous undercover videos on the horrors of factory farming and animal testing, my partner Brendan and I became vegan on the spot before we knew there was a word for it. We just knew that we didn’t want to contribute to the suffering we saw and later wondered if we could live on an animal-free diet. I also became an activist right away, speaking out for animal rights.
Did you have any vegan family members or friends to inspire and support you?
Sadly, most of my family are not vegan except my niece in the UK, and yet my uncle had been vegetarian since the 1970s. My partner Brendan is an ethical vegan and encouraged me to watch the videos on animal cruelty which led to us becoming vegan. Animals Australia, the lead animal protection agency in Australia continues to be an inspiration to me and I offered my services to them right away.
Please describe some of the struggles you’ve encountered along the way.
The biggest challenge for me has been the anguish of believing that I just have to show people how animals are treated in the industrialized process and that they will become vegan right away. As a psychologist of over 30 years, I realize that people develop psychic defenses to ward off painful experiences and often continue with practices that don’t serve them but avoid the need for change. However, I still find it hard to understand that people can close their eyes to such cruelty simply because of their tastebuds, traditions, or convenience.
What is the most significant experience you have had that has helped to shape your life?
Living in a family that asked questions about our existence. My father was also searching for the truth and stood up for what was right even though this made him unpopular at times – but for which people later thanked him. This inspired me to always say what is right even if it makes you unpopular.
How were you first introduced to mental health?
I have always been interested in “What makes people tick?” I always wanted to know why people behave as they do and my mother taught me to communicate effectively with other people and to genuinely be interested in people. From a young age, I resisted the belief that people who are anxious, depressed, or develop dysfunctional ways of behaving, are somehow flawed. My belief has been that people develop anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges in response to their life experiences and can change them.
What attracted you to your field?
I left school at 16 and worked in a bank. I soon realized this wasn’t for me and needed something more creative. Working as a secretary in industrial relations in a factory setting inspired me to consider the quality of working life – so I went back to study at 22 to get qualifications to go to university where I studied psychology and then occupational psychology – so I could help influence organizations to create workplaces that were both productive and welcome communities within which people could work and contribute. I reckoned that if people were to work throughout their lives, they should be helped to find work that is meaningful, contributes, and provides a community within which they can thrive. Sadly, not all organizations really take the human element into account, merely focusing on profit and the bottom line.
Did health and wellness inspire your veganism or vice versa?
I became vegan after learning about the institutionalized and systemic cruelty toward animals in society. At the time, I thought, “If I must live on french fries and salad for the rest of my life, so be it. I do not want to be part of the horror of taking away animals’ lives.” I didn’t know whether I could survive on a vegan diet, nor did I know that I had become vegan when I made this decision i.e., a person whose underlying philosophy of life is the non-use and non-exploitation of animals.
Tell me about your practice.
I now work primarily with vegans all over the world to work through the anguish of their Vystopia and turn that into powerful action for change for animals, people, and mother earth. I see people on a 1:1 basis online and run online and in-person training programs to improve communication as well as with animal protection agencies to help them communicate more effectively as well as work more effectively in teams.
How did you get started?
I have been a psychologist for over thirty years, having first started as an occupational and organizational psychologist. Having worked with leaders and managers who, behind closed doors, told me about their personal problems, I retrained and studied for a second master’s degree in Existential Psychotherapy and Counselling in London. I now work as a psychologist and existential psychotherapist – but primarily with vegans who are facing Vystopia and the anguish of living in a non-vegan world.
How would you like to inspire others internationally?
I want to help individuals to be the best they can be and contribute to creating a world to which we all belong. That starts with sorting out our own lives and the first rung on the ladder is to become vegan and live one’s life to do everything to non-use or exploit animals – nonhuman and human. I am committed to speaking about animal liberation and for us to learn to marvel at the majesty of the animal kingdom and nature and live on this planet kindly and connect more with the non-material world.
How do you think your mental health expertise could help vegans and the movement in general?
I believe that a therapist is only as good as the work they have done and continue to do on themselves. I have invested heavily in my own therapy over the years and continue to invest in my own training and development so I can help vegans work through their Vystopia and learn powerful ways to communicate effectively at all levels – rather than feeling people can’t and won’t change and are merely selfish and lost causes. I also want people to become more of the change they want to see in the world and create ways to be kind to themselves and do something creative with their lives. I also continue to collaborate and contribute to animal protection agencies to improve their group working and overcome their internal conflict and dynamics which are inevitable in any group or organization, so it doesn’t detract from the most important goal – animal liberation.
Can you describe 3 major benchmarks in your story that are responsible for where you are today?
- An early experience at the age of 8 years old saving a dog who was being abused even though it meant standing up to a crowd of marauding male teenagers.
- Being told at the age of 20 years of working as a secretary in employee relationships that I could re-train and do much more with my interest in psychology. This resulted in me doing night classes to gain qualifications to go to university at the age of 23, 7 years after leaving school.
- Learning about the industrialized abuse of animals – and after working as a psychologist for 20 years at the time, witnessing a lot of suffering, I honestly did not know I could hurt that much – and knew I had found my calling – to be part of creating a vegan world.
In what ways are you a different person today?
I am a more confident person today who is prepared to speak out truth in all areas of society, even if it makes me unpopular. This goes for the vegan community too – there are a lot of lies and untruths out there today in the general society which present as good and noble and political correctness stops people from calmly saying what they think and feel and challenging everything we hear – especially when it comes from organizations or governments who have lied to us about how animals are treated or what we need to eat to survive. We live in the age of censorship, promulgated often by institutions or leaders who don’t really have the interest of animals, people, or the planet in mind – but have been controlling people for a long time. The benefit of having been around a few decades is that you start to see patterns in what happens in our society – and speak out about it.
How would you describe the mental health of the animal rights movement?
The last few years of fear and lockdowns have indeed influenced society and the vegan community more. There are polarised views on what is happening in our health, society, and the wider world, and sadly many vegans have become unwilling to calmly listen to others to explore what is happening, instead censoring others whose views are different. This means that without a healthy means to communicate and ensure we are working effectively together for animals and veganism, there is in-fighting, censorship, and canceling. Each of us must look within ourselves to see how we are contributing to this and learn to be more open-minded and listen to each other with kindness and respect. If not, animals will ultimately lose out whilst we get our act together.
What is your advice regarding burnout?
It is very important for each of us to put practices and routines in place to put credit back into our emotional, physical, and spiritual bank accounts. In animal rights campaigning particularly it’s easy to become burnt out, feeling that what we do is never enough. Animals need us here now, next week, year and the decades to bring about their liberation. Without a healthy physical and psychological platform, we can’t do that. Complacency and disillusionment accompany all burnout so we must avoid this at all costs.
Can you offer some Self-care techniques?
The basics are important – adequate sleep, exercise we enjoy, a wholefood plant-based diet, relaxation techniques, doing something creative, getting out in nature, spending time around animals, developing good relationships with people you trust, and can learn to be your best with and learning to contribute to AR with the unique skills each of us can bring. I have practiced yoga at home for 45 years, have primarily a wholefood plant-based diet, love gardening and growing as much of my food as I can, swimming, and being around my rescue animals. I also read books and watch documentaries and meditate which is an essential part of calming the mind and body and refreshing us to stay the course and become long-term advocates.
Animal rights activists observe horrific situations and bear witness to a lot of very disturbing things. How does one protect their mental health while doing this work?
Having routines and practices that sustain you and create a strong platform of physical and emotional strength. De-briefing with others who understand and have bore witness to the disturbing things that happen to animals is important – but not wallowing in the distress, practicing techniques to transmute that pain into powerful action for change. Learning to self-soothe and relax through breathing is important as well as developing powerful self-talk to help yourself maintain equilibrium. Techniques like the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT tapping) are very powerful as is focused guided meditation based on neuroscience techniques to ensure our anguish isn’t “de-pressed” and does not become depression, but we learn to pass the anguish through our bodies.
August is National Bullying Prevention Month, can you offer some advice to our readers regarding how to deal with bullying from family members, friends, co-workers, and others?
No one can bully you without your permission! I don’t mean this lightly at all as to be at the brunt of bullying and feel disempowered and alone, is excruciating. However, we must learn not to be victims of the cruel remarks of others – realizing that it is their limitations or lack of feelings of power and control that make them try to impose power and control onto us through bullying. Often, we can feel bullied because we haven’t learned to effectively point out to others that it’s not ok to treat us like that – and to have a consequence if they don’t stop e.g. walking away and not returning until they stop behaving like that. It’s simple but powerful and something we often don’t realize. We have more power than we think and don’t have to be the victims of others – most of the bullying these days is verbal, and we can stop it by refusing to remain in the presence of the bully and not accept it – physical bullying and violence are different, but it usually doesn’t come to this.
Please list events you have attended professionally and/or spoken at.
There are too many events over the last 30 years as a psychologist to mention the 16 years of being a vegan. I have worked in about 20 countries and tens of organizations as well as my 1:1 work. I have spoken at National Animal Rights Conferences and Festivals in the USA, UK, and Australia and given workshops and talks for tens of animal rights and vegan groups – as well as being an active street activist and speaker at public places on ending live exports, factory farming, canned hunting, xenotransplantation, animal testing, greyhound racing, etc.
What do you think about online support groups?
They can be very helpful for those who feel isolated and not able to meet directly with others. However, the real benefit comes from being in the presence of other people and certainly meeting through video and audio rather than chats. However, many vegans say their real friends are online when they don’t have vegans or activists living nearby and know therefore that online support groups are invaluable to them.
Do you think vegans should seek out vegan therapists when considering counseling?
Many vegans want to see a vegan therapist even if they want to address general issues in their lives. I have been a psychologist for over 30 years and in all the years of practice I have never seen such boundary-breaking by non-vegan therapists who sometimes even bully their vegan clients who bring issues up with comments like, “Are you trying to make me feel guilty about not being vegan?” This is alarming and unprofessional and yet probably means the guilt non-vegans feel at what they know or imagine is happening to provide their food, is so great it makes them act unprofessionally.
Here is an article I wrote some time back about other people understanding the vegan and relates also to the desire to have a vegan therapist:
Why animal activists and vegans don’t feel understood by other people…
What frustrates you the most about your work? How do you overcome it?
I don’t feel frustrated about my work in the day-to-day – and if I did, I would change it as I believe I can’t really help people unless I am genuinely committed to them. The biggest challenge, however, is navigating social media and I always need someone to do this for me – as it’s not my strong point nor something I love to do. I feel saddened by how people, vegans, attack others – and a few years back I was attacked cruelly online by vegans I knew who didn’t agree with my opinion during lockdowns that we must always do our own research and ask questions rather than blindly accept what governments and health officials say. I realized people were in pain, but the online attack made other vegans feel sad and disempowered – that fighting would inevitably detract from focusing on animal liberation.
Are you willing to talk about any new projects on the horizon for you?
I am working on a number of projects with individuals and organizations around the world to empower vegans to be an even greater part of the solution. I am working with online programs for vegans – one in particular on Overcoming Vystopia and Turning our Anguish into Powerful Action for Change. Also, a new version of one of my previous books, Communicate: How to say what needs to be said, when it needs to be said, in the way it needs to be said – with a focus more on speaking out about veganism.